‘Not a special massage’: NSW MP Gareth Ward caught up in NYC blackmail

MERCURY NEWS MT KEIRA UPGRADE GARETH WARD Photo shows Gareth Ward at the top of Mt Keira where an upgrade will take place. Photo by Georgia Matts 24/3/2017A NSW MP has avoided a blackmail attempt by two New York scammers who offered a “special massage” and threatened to tell the authorities they were under age.

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Kiama MP Gareth Ward has spoken of the “terrifying” ordeal which unfolded when he booked a “normal, standard massage” online but two young men turned up to his hotel threatening to blackmail him.

“It was terrifying,” he said. “As soon as I could I made a break and ran to the front desk and they called the cops.”

The 37-year-old was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel on 44th Street near Broadway on a personal break before attending a conference in Canada when he booked the massage on Tuesday evening.

Two young men came to his door and started to film the MP on a mobile phone.

They demanded money, threatening to tell the authorities they were minors.

“They said to me, ‘We’re under age, we’ll put this on the internet unless you give us money’,” Mr Ward told the ABC.

Mr Ward said he told the men he had no cash and asked them to accompany him to an ATM downstairs.

The parliamentary secretary, who has albinism and is legally blind, went down to the front desk of the hotel and reported the incident to a staff member who contacted police.

The two men fled the scene and police are looking for them.

Mr Ward confirmed the matter is being investigated by the New York Police Department and denied a report he had ordered a “special massage” which implied sexual services.

“It’s not true,” he said. “I did not ask for a special massage. I’d been walking all day and people often ask for massages when they travel.”

Mr Ward declined to detail how he found the contact details to order the massage, saying: “I’ve given all that to the police”.

“I’ll wear the embarrassment,” he said. “I know what people are going to think.

Mr Ward was in New York on his way to Canada where he is attending a conference for parliamentarians with a disability, funded by the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Association.

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